If you haven’t been paying attention to SportsCenter lately – congratulations, you’ve somehow gotten out of the chokehold of Bristol. But anyways, ESPN’s Outside The Lines periodical shed light on some pretty awful shit going down at the Rutgers University Men’s Basketball program. Long story short, a whistleblower – wrongfully dismissed from his job, he alleges – called out Head Coach Mike Rice for physically and mentally abusive actions against student athletes during practices. At this point, it is nothing more than Bobby Knight throwing a chair or kicking a ball, right?
Super wrong. Video of these practices showed Rice forcefully grabbing players, pushing them, throwing basketballs at their heads, and screaming horrible profanities at them – many of them homophobic in nature. The kicker of this story is that Rice had been reprimanded for these actions months ago by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti – three games and a $50k fine. Umm…huh? If you watch the video, this not just a lapse in judgement that demands such a cupcake punishment. Here’s how that meeting between Rice and Pernetti should have gone:
TIM PERNETTI: Thanks for coming in today Coach Rice.
MIKE RICE: No problem.
PERNETTI: So you’ve been accused of being very rough with our student athletes – calling them names, throwing balls at them, and generally being kind of a fucking dick.
RICE: Hey, I coach hard. My tactics are a bit harsher, but I wouldn’t do anything to intentionally hurt my players. I’m here to win.
PERNETTI: Of course, Mike – I understand coaching hard. How else have you turned our team around in the last two years? We’re finishing tied for 13th place in the Big East now, not 15th. Anyway, this is all probably hogwash, but we have some video from the practices – let me check it out.
*Watches approximately thirty seconds of tape*
PERNETTI: Dude, what the fuck?
RICE: I don’t see anything wrong with that.
PERNETTI: If anyone was ever “the most fired”, it is you. You are the most fired.
But nope. 3 games. $50,000.
Needless to say, once ESPN ran the story, Mike Rice was fired – albeit about four months late – and early this morning, AD Tim Pernetti was also let go for defending the guy who called a bunch of kids “faggots”.
The reason this shit happens so frequently in college athletics is blind loyalty to both winning and to the brand. We saw its worst form at Penn State, we’re seeing it here at Rutgers, and it sounds like Auburn is the next big scandal about to break. Tim Pernetti didn’t want to upset the order of things – Mike Rice was an asshole but he was also Tim Pernetti’s guy, which meant more than the wellbeing of his student athletes.
But this misguided dedication to collegiate tradition isn’t limited to jackass coaches and thick ADs – it is all stirred to a stupid gruel at the student body and fan level. Here are some of the gems defending Rice and Pernetti:
“A coach yells at some players and throws some balls, the 3 game suspension and 50k fine were more than ample. What a joke.”
“hope your happy espn. another good person hurt by espn! outside the lines should investigate espn!”
“What an absolute joke. The public is so SOFT.”
“Wow, lots of heads rolling because some bad coaches shoved some players and yelled at them. What a country of Nancy’s we’re becoming.”
“Who’s going to report ESPN for bullying Rutgers?”
“This whole Rutgers story is weak sauce. getting blown out of proportion. moving on.”
“sports was the last thing left that liberals didn’t destroy. the liberals have won again, what’s next?”
I had to include the last one in because apparently all sports are inherently conservative – how did I not know that? This is just a small sampling of those defending Rice and Pernetti. Gotta love the internet – all these guys hiding behind anonymity showing how tough they are. They wouldn’t mind having basketballs launched at their face because that’s sports. I don’t mind being called a “cunt” because that’s sports. Sports are for men. Sports are not for “soft” people. Apparently, sports are not for liberals too.
Has it gotten so bad that we can’t look at something as fundamentally twisted as Rice’s actions and come down on the same side of the fence? I’ll admit, there is some minuscule wiggle room in the Rutgers scandal, but we saw the same thing after the Joe Paterno firing and the Steubenville rape case, just way worse. Way worse. But still there are people who will defend Joe Paterno until the end of time. Who will cry for the two student athletes that raped that girl because they had so much promise and now their lives are effectively over.
Stop this nonsense. Lets call Mike Rice what he is: an asshole who had no business coaching student athletes. Lets call Tim Pernetti what he is: the guy who thought the asshole deserved to keep coaching. I’m sorry – those are fireable offenses in this case. And to the public – proximity and connection doesn’t mean a university or sports team is absolved of all wrongdoing because it was in the name of winning.